What is hypnosis and hypnotherapy? How does it work?
Hypnosis and hypnotherapy both rely on the characteristics of mind to do their work. In the previous blog I explained about states of mind, and about the transition between wakefulness and sleep. Hypnosis is associated with changing states of mind, however, light hypnosis is also associated with wishful thinking and fantasy. In my next blog I will discuss something about the history of hypnotherapy and how it eventuated, but in this, I will discuss the mechanisms of hypnotherapy.
Types of Hypnotherapy
There are three types of hypnotherapy. The first revolves around the phenomenon of suggestion. The second revolves around the process of insight and analysis. The third is associated with regression, but not past life regression, rather, regression back to painful memories, usually from this life, that releases the associated emotion that causes problems. Often hypnotherapy involves all three, sometimes just two, and in the modern world, sometimes just one. The problem with the process of hypnotherapy as it is practiced in many places in the world is that the people who practice it are basically unqualified to do so. This doesn't mean that they have no qualifications, rather, I mean that their qualifications don't include an understanding of all of the necessary elements to properly carry out the process in all of the different situations that may arise. Also, sometimes, suggestion is not the appropriate way to tackle a problem. Sometimes insight is needed, but the hypnotherapist might not have the skill to bring true insight. If this is the case, and the therapist is fooled by fantasy brought up by a client, then rather than giving insight, the therapist is furthering incorrect ideas in the client. Insight is of great value in resolving emotional issues, but insight can only be given by someone who has true insight. With hypnotherapy, this often means uncovering unconscious material, forgotten memories, hidden desires and other emotions. Simply asking won't usually bring this forth. In a light state of hypnosis, which is what most people achieve in this process, it may only bring forth what the subject thinks the hypnotist wants to hear. This need not be the truth. Unless the therapist understands the way to uncover unconscious problems, and to zero in on unconscious emotions, then these problems are not being properly addressed. Suggestion may be used successfully in some cases, but it is not getting to the root cause. While this may be satisfactory in some cases, in most cases, it is unlikely to be, though it might help a little.
How do we solve a psychological problem?
By uncovering the root cause of a problem, releasing hidden emotion, understanding hidden feelings and thoughts, remembering incidents that have been forgotten, that are associated with the problem, one reaches the first step in their resolution. The next step is to understand how these things have affected the person undertaking hypnosis, and in many cases, this will be in more ways than just the symptoms for which the client presents for treatment. Unconscious emotional elements often put out tentacles that spread through many other areas of our lives. Once uncovered, there is more to do. It is like a mopping up process that helps the client to leave behind the emotional effects and behavioural elements associated with negative unconscious causes.
Of course, one doesn't always need to understand everything of their problems. With phobias for instance, it may be possible to desensitise a sufferer without the need for understanding or for hypnotherapy. In some cases, even suggestion will help. Encouragement might help. Some people are assisted by just the minimum of help.
What is suggestion? How does it help? At its most simplest, suggestion is no more than support. We may suggest to a sufferer a simple way to attack a problem. We may make a suggestion as to what is the cause. With hypnotic suggestion, we may suggest the problem will go away, or move from one part of the body to another in the case of psychosomatic disorders. Hypnotic suggestion has the ability to go deeper than other forms of suggestion and can be useful for losing weight, controlling appetites, giving up smoking. The deeper the hypnosis in which the suggestion is given, the better the likely outcome, as long as suggestion is the best means of tackling whatever problem is being tackled. Hypnotic suggestion can gain the aid of the unconscious mind. This can be important in some cases. However, suggestion can also be counter productive in that it can help us to hide important issues from ourselves. An example might be someone trying to give up smoking. Underlying the smoking habit might be anxiety, and this might come from emotional causes. Rather than just suggesting the client won't want to smoke anymore, it would in this case be more productive to explore the emotional problems driving the addiction, before giving the suggestion.
A word about hypnosis.
Many hypnotherapists have skills in hypnotising but lack the skills in developing insight, in uncovering unconscious emotional issues and memories. Hypnotherapy is a complex process that has many facets. It cannot always be simplified down to one simple modality, that of the hypnosis itself. If you have been to a hypnotherapist and have not had much success then you may need to look for another who has the relevant skills. To find that out, you need to ask. Hypnosis enters us into an altered state of consciousness, and these altered states have specific characteristics and values. These states of mind allow us to explore ourselves in a way not available by other modalities, but we need to be cognisant of the need for clarity about what we do and the way we approach using these altered states as a resource. However, properly used, hypnosis, including self hypnosis, can be a valuable tool for self development. It might be compared to working on your car. If you don't know what you are doing, then you are best to leave it alone. If you go to find a mechanic, you will find both good and bad available. If you own a Ferrari, it is probably not much point taking it to someone who specialises in Hyundai. Such decisions involve common sense. When approaching hypnosis, you also need to maintain common sense. Don't do hypnosis with someone who has little experience and five minutes of training, as so many out there today do. Work with someone experienced in the field you need, who has a background in understanding and analysing psychological issues. It's simply common sense. If you want to do past life regression, instead of hypnotherapy, you should still work with someone experienced in psychological matters, as well as hypnosis and past life memory. However, having said that, one also can't presume that someone with a psychological qualification is the ideal person with whom you should undertake past life regression. In that case you need to find someone who is well rounded with experience.
Next time I'll discuss the history of hypnosis and some of the amazing case histories that have eventuated from time to time.